Tempura is another great example of a simple and sophisticated Japanese dish. Plump and juicy prawns wrapped with super crispy batter, unique Japanese vegetables such as shiso leaf, thinly sliced sweet kabocha pumpkin and purple sweet potato, renkon lotus roots and shiitake mushrooms coated with crispy batter. I am going to share my secret to make crispy Tempura at home!
What protein suits Tempura?
In Japan, the protein source used is usually seafood. I have never had meat tempura. Prawn is my favourite. If you are going to use prawn, my recommendation is to use ‘tiger prawn’. Other seafood often cooked are squid, scallops, and white fish such as sillaginoid or Japanese whiting.
How to prepare Prawn?
Presentation of the dish is important to some extent even for a home cooked dish. Making the prawn straight when you make deep fried prawn and Tempura prawn is a must. Because it makes the prawn splendid and glorious in size and appearance. Prawns usually shrink when cooked due to the heat, but there is a way to stop this. So, first of all, leave only the section of the shrimp tail and peel the shell from the tail side and devein. Then, score the belly side of prawn and snap prawn muscle with a finger as the photo indicates. Also, cut off the tip of the prawn tail to avoid the oil spurting while deep frying. I explained How to prepare a prawn in more detail in my Fried Shrimp post.
Vegetables for Tempura
Basically, certain vegetables contain a lot of moisture such as tomato and cucumber. So they do not suit tempura because, by the time the moisture evaporates, the batter will be burnt. So for that reason, starchy vegetables like sweet potato, kabocha pumpkin, Renkon lotus roots are good to deep fry with the batter. Green beans and Shishito pepper are also good too and they are my favourite.
How to prepare vegetables?
It is important to slice the starchy vegetables thinly at about 5mm (0.2 inch). This is so that it cooks in a relatively short period of time before the batter burns. I used the frozen Renkon and kabocha pumpkin. If you also use frozen vegetables, make sure to wipe the excess moisture from them after defrosting. Make sure to cut the stems off shiitake mushrooms. Shiitake mushroom stems are quite hard and chewy and not really edible.
Tempura batter secret ingredient
Tempura isn’t that hard to make yourself but it can be a bit difficult to make it as well as they do at restaurants, which is understandable since it’s their job to make food that good. But the homemade version is still super delicious and will be a big hit at your next party! I used Japanese mayonnaise as a special little ingredient to make sure the batter stays crispy and fresh.
Why Japanese mayonnaise?
Eggs are usually used to make batter but this often makes the tempura very oily and soggy. However, by using mayonnaise instead of egg, the emulsified oil from the mayo disperses into the batter which doesn’t leave any moisture in the batter so the tempura stays deliciously crispy! If you want to know more of the science behind it you can visit the Kewpie website, (In Japanese language).
How to serve and eat Tempura?
Have you heard of a dipping sauce called Tentsuyu? Restaurants used this sauce to accompany tempura. Tentsuyu is a mix of dashi, soy sauce and mirin. It is subtly sweet with Umami flavour from dashi and really suitable for eating with Tempura. Furthermore, Matcha and yuzu salts are usually served with tempura. My favourite way is dipping into Tentsuyu.
How to make Tentsuyu?
I could not make a blog post on tempura without including the recipe for this dipping sauce as well. So below you will find the recipe for Tentsuyu. This is my daughter’s absolute favourite sauce ever, she drenches her tempura in it because she just loves the flavour so much. It’s a really tasty and sort of sweet sauce that goes perfectly with tempura.
Tips to make Crispy Tempura
The key point of crispy tempura is in its batter. When gluten forms in the batter, it will not be super crispy. So we need to make the batter carefully by following these tips.
- Use icy cold water when mixing water and flour.
- Do not stir the mixture too much to avoid gluten forming. It is even best to leave some flour powdery crumbs in the batter.
- Add secret ingredient ‘Japanese mayonnaise’. Japanese mayonnaise does not use the whole egg and is different from whole egg mayonnaise. So if you don’t have it you can omit it. And just make sure the water is icy cold and keep it refrigerated till just before you deep fry.
Byproduct and what to do with deep fry oil after?
When you remove prawn and vegetable tempura from the oil, you will see crunchy deep fried flour crumbs floating on the deep frying oil. It is called ‘Tenkasu’ which means tempura waste though they are not really a waste. They are actually quite flavorful from the prawn and vegetables deep fried and therefore often used to add some flavour to Okonomiyaki and Takoyaki.
Leaving those ‘Tenkasu’ floating in the oil will cause the oil to deteriorates. Japanese cook deep fried food often so most households have Cooking Oil Storage Grease Keeper and drain the cooking oil into the keeper and recycle the oil 2-3 times. You can also purchase an oil coagulant agent to throw the oil out. I have never found those outside Japan so what we could do instead is place scrunched paper towel or newspaper in a milk carton. Let the paper absorb the oil and reseal the carton to throw away.
Use of Tempura
Tempura is a glorious main dish in its own right, but it is also used for creating other delicious Japanese dishes. For example Tendon, Tenmusu, Tempura Udon and Tempura Soba. Tendon is rice bowl with tempura with delicious sweet sauce drizzled over. Tenmusu is a Nagoya speciality rice ball with tempura in the centre. Tempura udon and soba are those Japanese noodles with tempura. Check out my recipes.
If you liked the tips and instructions for Tempura, please rate it and leave a comment below.
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- 4 Prawns
- 4 Slices of purple sweet potato
- 2 Slices of lenkon
- 2 Slices of shiso
- 2 Shiitake mushrooms
- 1 Chikuwa fish cake *1 optional
- Oil for deep frying
- 50 g Plain flour
- 75 ml Ice cold water
- 1 tbsp Kewpie mayonnaise
Tentsuyu (dipping sauce)
- 1 cup of Water
- 1/2 tbsp Dashi powder
- 1/4 cup Mirin
- 1/4 cup Soy sauce
- 1/4 cup grated daikon
- Prepare the prawn and vegetables and set aside. *2
- Place the flour and add icey cold water and mayonnaise. Combine them together briefly (don't over-mix or it will be too gooey).
- Set aside in fridge until all ingredients and oil is ready.
- Fill a deep pan or deep-fryer with vegetable oil and heat until 180c.
- Add each ingredient (prawn & vegetable) to the batter individually to coat them and put them into the oil.
- When the prawn and vegetable is cooked, if you lift them up out of cooking oil with a pair of chopsticks you can feel tiny vibration.
- When the ingredients are cooked, place them onto a plate lined with a paper towel to absorb the excess oil.
- Continue to coat and fry each ingredient until all done.
- Add the mirin to a small sauce pan and boil on high heat for about 1 minute (this will allow all the alcohol to evaporate).
- Add the water, soy sauce, and dashi powder and bring to a boil.
- Place the sauce in a bowl and allow it to cool down then serve with the Tempura.
- Pour about 1/4 cup of Tentsuyu in a small bowl with about 1 tbsp of grated daikon to serve with Tempura. *3